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Burning Eyes - Causes, Symptoms, and Management

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Burning Eyes - Causes, Symptoms, and Management

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Burning eyes is a condition where a burning sensation associated with redness and watery eyes is seen. It can occur due to many factors.

Written by

Dr. Sumithra. S

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gargi Madhukar Apte

Published At July 28, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 24, 2023


An injury or an inflammation affecting the eye tends to cause severe damage to vision if left untreated. Burning eyes is a common symptom associated with many injuries and inflammation. This article will explain the causes, symptoms, management, and prevention of burning eyes in detail.

What Are Burning Eyes?

Burning eyes is an irritation in the eyes causing a burning sensation. It is often associated with redness and watery eyes. The affected person would feel the heat in the eyes compared to the other body parts. There are several causes like weather conditions, allergies, or diseases like dry eyes. It can affect both the eyes or just one eye at a time.

What Are the Various Causes and Symptoms of Burning Eyes?

  • Presence of a Foreign Body: Foreign bodies like sand or dust present on the eye's surface can cause burning eyes. Dust and sand particles from cleaning, traveling through roads, winds are the causative factors.

Symptoms associated with this are,

  • Burning eyes.

  • Discomfort in the eye.

  • Tearing of the eye.

  • Excessive blinking.

  • Redness.

If this is found to be the cause, make sure to limit eye movements, wash hands before touching the eyes, avoid applying pressure and try to wash the eyes with clean running water.

If the foreign body is found to be wood, glass, or metal, it is best recommended to see a doctor immediately.

  • Chemical Eye Burns: Eye burns due to chemical substances can cause burning and watering eyes. These burns occur at workplaces or homes from common household chemicals.

  • Alkali Burns: Chemicals of high alkaline content like ammonia and iye are found to cause chemical burns and damage to the layers of the eyes. These chemicals are commonly found in household cleaners. This is the most dangerous burn.

  • Acid Burns: Acid burns are not as dangerous as alkali. Acids like sulfuric acid, acetic acid, and nitric acid are present in everyday household things like nail polish remover and batteries.

If exposed to any of the above chemicals, rinse eyes thoroughly with clean running water as first aid.

  • Blepharitis: There are several oil glands present near the eyelashes. These glands get clogged due to bacteria and mites, and cause irritation, itching. The dry and burning feeling of the eyes is seen. The symptoms associated with this condition are.

  • Swelling of the eyelids.

  • Burning eyes.

  • Pain and tearing of eyes.

In severe cases, discharge from the eyes and formation of a stye (red lump on the edges of the eyelid) is seen.

  • Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is the inflammation of the conjunctival layer. It starts in one eye and may eventually spread to another. The severity depends on the causative factor. If it is caused due to an allergy or antihistamine drops, cold compression is enough for it to heal. But if bacteria, virus, or fungi is found to be the cause, immediate treatment is required as certain forms have the potential to spread.

The common symptoms include burning eyes, itchy eyes, discharge, and tearing.

  • Pterygium: It is a wedge-shaped, fleshy, and non-cancerous growth seen in the conjunctival layer and the layer covering the cornea. It is also called a surfer's eye. Exposing the eyes to too much ultraviolet light (UV light) is the primary cause. Symptoms include,

  • Burning eyes.

  • Blurred vision.

  • Redness.

  • A feeling of the presence of a foreign body.

  • Irritating eye.

  • Not able to wear contact lenses.

  • Dry eyes: Dry eyes occur due to inadequate production of tears to lubricate the surface. Burning eyes are one of the most common symptoms. Artificial tears are found to produce good relief for dry eyes. Working on a computer for a long time is one of the risk factors.

  • Sunburn of the Eye: Ultraviolet rays not just damage the skin but also the eyes causing burning sensation and irritation.

  • Ocular Rosacea: Rosacea is a serious skin condition causing redness and inflammation. It occurs due to stress, food, and alcohol consumption. Ocular rosacea is the first sign of facial rosacea.

The symptoms include,

  • Burning eyes.

  • Blurred vision.

  • Redness.

  • Sensitive to light.

  • Itching of the eyes.

  • Stye could be present in some cases.

How to Diagnose Burning Eyes?

Finding the underlying cause is essential to chart down the treatment plan. Therefore, the doctor will enquire about the following.

  • A complete medical history will be taken.

  • The patient will be asked about the symptoms - When did the symptoms start? Did it get better or worse? What activity makes it worse?

  • Any history of eye condition will be recorded.

  • History of medications will be evaluated as certain decongestants tend to cause burning eyes.

Next, a physical examination of the eye will be done using specialized equipment to check for irregularities, damages, and dryness. A few drops will be applied to the eyes to check the tearing and moisturizing ability of the eye.

How to Manage Burning Eyes?

Managing burning eyes depends on the underlying cause, but a general treatment plan includes,

  • Cleaning the eye margin below the eyelashes with lukewarm water.

  • Lubricating eye drops can be used to ease the redness.

  • Warm compress using a clean cloth soaked in warm water provides good relief.

  • Antihistamine drops prescribed by doctors can be used to treat allergies.

  • Fish oil and flaxseeds can be taken as a supplement to treat dry eyes and ocular rosacea.

  • In case of a chemical burn, the pH of the eye has to be restored, and thus doctors will monitor the affected eyes for some time.

  • If vision is affected, the ophthalmologist will undergo a series of eye tests to finalize a treatment to restore vision.

How to Prevent Burning Eyes?

  • Drink adequate water to stay hydrated and prevent dry eyes.

  • Wear protective shields while exposing the eyes to chemicals.

  • Avoid contact with the irritants.

  • Wear sunglasses every time while going out in the sun.

  • Take breaks while working on a computer.


In most cases, burning eyes occur as a symptom of an injury or an infection. So treating the whole condition becomes essential at times. Proper treatment eases the burning eyes. Seeking a doctor at the earliest is necessary to prevent complications.

Dr. Gargi Madhukar Apte
Dr. Gargi Madhukar Apte

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)


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